Category Archives: News

Granite Creek Preservation Society at Princeton Museum

The Granite Creek Preservation Society is now hosting regular monthly meetings in Princeton Museum.

“I’m happy with the progress made to date,” says GCPS Chair George Elliott. “We launched a website that has been embraced by many and continues to grow as documents, photos and information is being shared with us.”

Elliott says the need to host regular monthly meetings was the natural next step. “I think in order to be accountable we need to have a great deal of transparency and one way of doing this is to hold public meetings,” he said.

Elliott approached Princeton Museum Operations Manager Robin Lowe and discussed the possibility of a partnership between the Museum Society and GCPS. “We have no intention to house artifacts as our main goal is to preserve what is left of Granite and to share what we know through the website,” Elliott says. “It also just made sense to me to have an arrangement with the Museum as I see both groups benefiting from working together.”

Through discussions with Lowe, Elliott was able to secure a regular ‘home’ for GCPS meetings and a place for any artifacts that many surface as a result of the website and further efforts of the Granite Creek Preservation Society.

Public meetings of GCPS are set for 1:00 PM the third Thursday of each month in the upstairs Archive Room at Princeton Museum.

The GCPS website is located at www.granitecreekbc.ca    §

Telus Cable Getting Fixed

After some years of deteriorating phone service in Coalmont, Telus is finally going to raise their cable off the ground. We’ve all seen it laying there in the ditch and shook our heads at what looks like the most shoddy and temporary installation one could imagine. Every time some road maintenance machine accidentally gave it a yank or the snow plough snagged it, the phones would go out for the whole area. In between, mother nature would roll a few boulders over it and sever a few wires knocking out Coalmont, Tulameen, some people in between, or any combination of those. Apparently Telus is tired of this, though perhaps not as much as we are here.

A little over a week ago Telus made application to the Crown Land Allocation people. They wish to add some infrastructure “Commencing at the eastern outskirts of Coalmont Road; intersect with the former CPR right of way and east of the Town of Coalmont”. The application is still under review, but here is what they say:

This is an application for telecommunications works consisting of overhead cables on poles, pole anchors, power and grounding and related works. These works are required to replace existing telecommunications cables which have deteriorated, resulting in service loss to customers. They will be placed on an existing Fortis powerline right of way, also under an application for a land tenure received at the same time as this application, under File 3412865.

So they’re finally going to put the telephone cable on the hydro poles. The simultaneous application by Fortis reads like this:

This is an application to legalize existing powerlines which have been there for many years. Three additional poles and one anchor to be installed. Telus Communications is also making application for a land tenure over the same area under Lands File: 3412864.

There is no indication of when this work will start, or when it will be completed. It will certainly be a treat for all of us, and having 24/7 access to 911 will be a relief.    §

Late Snow

We finally got some real snow. A month ago ski hills and businesses around the province that rely on snow were struggling with the warm weather and even Coalmontians had to trailer their sleds to higher ground to have their fun. In fact those of us more concerned with shoveling were beginning to think that we might almost be lucky this winter. Apparently not.

Other parts in BC have suffered hydro outages and travel issues, but at least we’re prepared around here. Argo even came late at night to run the grader around town.

Argo ploughing Front Street at night

Jody Woodford Gets Recognition

On behalf of His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, the Honourable Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, presented the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award to 24 volunteers from British Columbia on Friday, January 24, 2014, at 2:30 p.m., during a ceremony at Government House in Victoria.
Jody Woodford with Lieutenant Govenor

The Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award recognizes living Canadians and permanent residents who have made a significant, sustained, unpaid contribution to their community, in Canada or abroad. Often working behind the scenes, these individuals volunteer their time and efforts to help their fellow citizens.

Jody Woodford joined the Coalmont/Tulameen Volunteer Fire Department in 1998 and became Fire Chief in 2008. Through her work, she has put the department on a sound financial footing and enabled it to respond to a variety of crisis situations. Her unpaid efforts as a volunteer firefighter lift spirits in times of crisis.

We all know that Jody Woodford is a special person when it comes to contributing to the community. Now it’s official.    §

Tulameen Recreation Tax

Those who pay property tax will have noticed an item named “Tulameen Recreation”. This was one of several taxation issues on the agenda at the last Coalmont Community Association meeting.

Brad Hope, our regional representative, was going to inquire about getting it removed and report back to us. No one appeared to know what this tax was for, and removing it seemed appropriate in an environment where Coalmont, like other small Area ‘H’ communities, is trying to maintain its identity. Unfortunately Bylaws are very difficult to remove and it turns out that what Coalmontians agreed to in 1999 is here to stay. In fact, that tax will double this year.

Do you know what it is for? Let’s have a look.

A bylaw to establish and operate the local service for pleasure, recreation and other community use, including art galleries, museums, historic sites, arenas, theatres, sports complexes and other public buildings or facilities for exhibition in a portion of Electoral Area “H” of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen.

The mill rate for this tax was .0685 and the average assessment in this area is $235,000. Such a property would have paid $16 last year but would now pay $32. This can easily go up again, and no doubt will, but there are limits set in the Bylaw.

(it) shall not exceed the greater of $10,000 or twenty-two cents per thousand dollars of net taxable value of land and improvements in the Tulameen Recreation Service Area.

This service area is defined on a map. It starts with Bert’s field and goes up along the Tulameen river and through the Tulameen townsite to the far end, but not the sides, of Fremd lake. From Tulameen, the area also extends west for 6 kilometers along the river, including a large section north of that. A quick check confirms that the area is in fact defined by the same borders as the Tulameen fire district.

There are some curious aspects to this arrangement. The other side of the river at Coalmont is excluded. In fact there are a number of Coalmontians who avoid this tax. Also note that the historical Granite Creek townsite is not in the area. That is particularly interesting since this Bylaw was enacted at a time when the BC Government was discussing a tourist oriented development there. Our regional district would have known that.

The increase this year is to pay a small salary for someone to look after their arena and clean up the beach at Tulameen after the tourists have been there. Of course, being in the relevant service area, Coalmont can apply for some of this money too. However, the problem with that is it will make our taxes go up yet again.    §

Signs Missing

We have had some public signs go missing lately. The most notable is the one for Smart Road. We’ve had vandalism in Coalmont before, and no place is immune. Luckily the regional district has offered to replace that one. Part of that road was the first access to Coalmont when it started and was still in use up until the 40’s. It is an important part of our history and we should honour that. What the actual name was at first is not known. It is entirely possible that it was called Coalmont Road.

There are at least four other signs reported missing. A couple were private signs, and the two “no motorized hill climbing” ones on the KVR are missing as well. Signs cost money and effort, but the biggest loss is to the sense of trust and well being within the community.    §

Telus Outage

The phones were out for some hours again today. This is common here, and despite the fact that we’ve had telephones in Coalmont for over a hundred years many people accept that in this day and age, we get second rate service. However, not everyone is happy with this. Bob Sterne sends us the following letter:

Once again, the phone lines to Coalmont are down, there is no dial tone at all…. This has happened twice already this winter that I am aware of…. On Jan. 3rd the Coalmont Hotel caught fire, which is adjacent to our property, and if the phone lines had been out, we likely would have lost our house….

The phone line to Coalmont isn’t buried, it isn’t strung on poles, it is lying on the side of the road, along the bank, tied to trees and rocks, for a distance of about a kilometer…. Is this what you consider to be a proper installation, because I think the TV Stations and Newspapers I am CCing on this email might well disagree….

There is no cell service in this area, Telus provide our only way to reach the 911 Emergency Services…. Does somebody have to die before Telus get their act together?…

This is indeed a serious matter, but what is particularly interesting is that Telus appears to be hiding the fact that they are unable, or unwilling, to provide an acceptable and safe level of service here. On the Telus “Home services outages” web page, Coalmont or related areas, are not listed. Why is that? Not under “Current outages” during our blackouts, nor under “Resolved outages” afterwards.

Is Telus trying to hide the facts from the CRTC? In the past when the whole town has been disconnected, a representative has had the gall to say that “only a few subscribers were effected”. It appears that they only count those that actually call to complain. Most people don’t, because . . . umm . . . their phones don’t work.   §

Coal Mine Getting Deeper

A published list of 341 creditors owed a total of $73,935,635.64 shows that the coal mine is running a little behind in their bill payments.

Ten companies are owed over a million dollars, most noteworthy being HSBC Bank Canada with a $37 million claim. There are no locals on the list, but 14 companies in Princeton are owed a total of $344,651.30. In the greater picture that may look like loosing your change down the back of the sofa, but it is money the local economy can ill afford to lose.

For a long time it was hoped that Coalmont Energy would be able to get back on their feet. However, a little over a month ago when Kerry Leong, the company president, filed an affidavit in an attempt to get a stay of proceedings from creditors, that started to look much less likely. Now the company is filing a proposed sales process schedule in the Supreme Court which has been approved by the lawyers representing the petitioners. That is, the people who are owed money, approve of the sale of CEC. Who exactly will end up operating the mine after that is far from certain. The sales schedule ends March 14.

What’s worse, Vitol Inc., the company with whom CEC had an agreement to buy all the coal from the mine, has filed an order to terminate the contract. They have not received the amount of coal which they were promised, and under the agreement Coalmont Energy will be owing them half a million dollars. In fact the agreement stipulates four million dollars on default. This proceeding will likely succeed, and thus any new mine owner will have to find another buyer. It seems that with every step forward this venture is getting even deeper in the hole.    §

Fire Scare This Afternoon

The Tulameen Fire Department was here in full force and had their portable water tank set up in the intersection in front of the hotel. Also here were police and ambulance.

Emergency vehicles outside Coalmont Hotel

The situation started when Sylvia, who was alone in the Hotel at the time, heard the fire alarm. She soon discovered that it was the second pellet stove which was malfunctioning and was threatening the wooden structure. She then called 911 and our fire department arrived in very short time, although the chains they need to use on the trucks in the winter does make their highway speed slower than it would be in summertime.

As it turns out, the situation was dealt with quickly, and all was safe again. As well as the job getting done, this was a good demonstration of the emergency services that we have available here should something really serious happen.

There were a number of local people gathered in the street. It was particularly comforting to see that there were also extra volunteer fire fighters who showed up just in case. Neither the police nor the ambulance was needed. Nicole who owns the little house at the end of Main, was on the ambulance crew, so got to have a little visit in her favourite town while on-duty.

Both Chris and Sylvia are taking this in stride. Though Chris had to come back from Princeton where he also works as chef at the Brown Bridge Pub. Although not happy that this happened, he was nevertheless grateful that it was nothing worse. They’re both breathing a sigh of relief now – as we all are.

Firefighters outside Coalmont Hotel

Landline Gone AWOL – Again

The Telus landline phones are out again. It’s hard to tell how many people are effected, but it looks like it could be everybody. The Hotel, the Motel, and the people around that part are off for sure. Apparently there is a service outage in Tulameen as well. In a place like Coalmont where there is also no cell service, this is a serious situation.

The Telus site has a note from yesterday which only says that there is a problem.

Outage Identified
Outage Type: TBD
Outage Type Information: Estimated time of resolution is TBD.
Resolution In progress

The contact number they list on their Home Outages web page leads to a voice message saying that “the number you have called is not in service – or invalid”. Oh well, it’s good to know that they’re on top of the error messages anyway. Fortunately Telus does have an excellent on-line chat facility. In fact it took only a minute before an agent came on-line. Here is what the agent said.

There is a known issue in the area that you mentioned. Technicians are aware of the problem and working toward a solution but we have not been provided with an estimated time for repair.

There was no tangible information available about what had happened, what they are doing, and if they are prepared to work in the evening so that we can get back our connection to the world and be able to call 911 if that should be required. After all, phones are most important when it comes to an emergency situation and that is one of the main reasons that people pay for the service.

Technicians are aware of the problem and working toward a solution but we have not been provided with an estimated time for repair. Whether they will be actively working on it all night will depend upon the cause and solution, neither of which I am aware of.

Service has been out since about noon yesterday. This is a fairly frequent occurrence in these parts, but that’s still a long time to go without any connection – especially for older people. Anyway, we’ll find out in the morning if Telus has been working on restoring service. Let’s hope that this is as important to them as it is to us.    §

UPDATE: The phones came back up the next day. This is what the Telus site reports:

Resolved
Outage Type: Force of nature Outage Type Information Status Update: If you are still experiencing a service interruption, please contact us. Estimated time of resolution is TBD

Coalmont Energy Update

As we all see, the operation at the Blakeburn mine has remained on hold. Workers are not back, and the economic benefits of 150 jobs here is not currently being realized. This does not mean that CEC has not been doing anything, nor that government departments have not been kept busy with procedural paperwork – so at least some people are being paid.

At the behest of, and in consultation with the Ministry of Environment, Collins Gulch will be altered to conform to current environmental design, as considered suitable in these circumstances. The thinking is that this will prevent any disaster from happening in the future.

On Friday, the final Environmental Impact Assessment report will be submitted to the Ministry Of Environment. This will be a comprehensive assessment of potential environmental impacts.

It was planned to hold a public information meeting right after this final report, but since the mine is not yet operating, CEC decided to cancel that. They will, however, give us a report with a summary of the various potential impacts. We will be publishing that here as soon as it arrives.   §

Coalmont Hotel Open 7 Days A Week

This morning the final OK came to allow the new owners, Chris and Sylvia, to open this famous saloon again. As we would expect, people have been dropping in all day. Somehow people know. It’s part of the magic.

The cooler is full

Inside, you’ll see a few changes. The bar has been moved around to be more practical and inviting, and the atmosphere is warm. There are three TV screens now, so it will be easier to watch a game – they’re not dominating though. It’s still the same old Coalmont Hotel.

Dream written on sign in saloonThey will be open at noon, 7 days a week. Closing time will be 10pm, though much later on weekends. Chris and Sylvia have more plans and we’ll report on those in a future story. Right now they’ll just play it by ear until they see how the business comes back. Judging from today’s showing, it looks like they will soon be doing well. §

The Coal Mine is Closed

Friday afternoon, most of the workers at the Coalmont Energy mine at Blakeburn were told that operations would stop for a while. How long this will last is not known.

There has been no word from CEC about when they will call people back and it doesn’t appear that anybody got called today. The morning commuting through town seemed nonexistent. Hopefully things will get sorted out and people will be back to work soon. §

Kinder Morgan On Tulameen FSR

There will be some possible delays on the Coquihalla end of the Tulameen Forest Service Road while work is being done. The planned start is October 11th and will continue until the 14th, though there is a slight possibility that it will go as long as the 19th if there is a delay in starting the project.

Since this could effect hauling (which would possibly go through Coalmont again) we have asked Coalmont Energy what is going on. They inform us that at this point they are not aware of this project.

Kinder Morgan is the largest midstream and the third largest energy company in North America. Here is how they describe themselves:

The largest natural gas pipeline and storage operator in the U.S.
The largest independent transporter of refined petroleum products in the U.S.
The largest independent terminal operator in the U.S.
The largest transporter and marketer of CO2 in the U.S.
The only oilsands pipeline serving the West Coast of Canada.

What exactly is planned is not yet known, but it is always of interest when a company with such a high international profile comes into the area.  §

UPDATE: CEC got back to us with this information:

Kinder Morgan is performing hydro-static testing on a 35 kilometer section of its Trans Mountain Pipeline. As per Kinder Morgan, this “voluntary test is part of the company’s integrity and maintenance program and uses water to test the strength and integrity of the pipe”.

This testing is not anticipated to have any impact with respect to hauling from the Basin Coal Mine. Kinder Morgan is implementing safety procedures including flag persons and speed controls along those sections of the Tulameen Forest Service Road that will be affected. Kinder Morgan has advised that traffic will not be stopped, only controlled along the testing areas.

A Sign At Blakeburn

To mark and commemorate the lost town of Blakeburn, there is now a sign near where the company store and post office was once located.

It’s been 73 years since the power was turned off in Blakeburn and everybody moved away. With the ravages of time there is almost nothing left on the site and it is completely overgrown. Some people thought that was a shame. Bert Rice suggested at one of the Coalmont Community Association meetings that we should erect a sign. Everyone agreed, and the wheels were set in motion.

It turned out to be a project involving a number of people. I designed the graphic. Sharon and James McCulloch got the actual sign made (see previous story) and paid for it out of their own money. Chris Goodfellow then bought lumber and built the structure. That’s when his father, Eric Goodfellow saw the project and was thrilled that the place where he used to go as a kid was finally being honoured. The Goodfellows go back a long way in this area. (See Goodfellow Creek.) Eric then offered to procure a metal cap to finish off the top of the sign. To further show his appreciation he also donated $100 to the Community Association. He then went to the Tin Man where Fred Robbins made the generous gesture of doing the work for free since he too thought it was a good cause.

Placing the posts Blakeburn sign

This morning a small party consisting of myself, Chris and Penny Goodfellow, and Eileen Walsh, went up Blakeburn Road, turned left onto Arrasta Creek Forest Service Road and stopped at the original site of the Blakeburn store and post office. Waiting for us there was Bert Rice with his mini excavator on its trailer. Bert is clearly an artist with that machine. It didn’t take long for him to clear a spot, dig the holes, and arrange some rocks to make the place look nice. Now there is finally a marker for this unique little mining town of Blakeburn. People who travel up that way to explore or pay homage to the history will no longer come back saying they couldn’t find it.

Blakeburn Sign Party
Left to right: Bert Rice, Chris and Penny Goodfellow, Eileen Walsh.

Some may wonder about the dates on the sign. It is not clear exactly when the site really became the town of Blakeburn since it happened gradually at first. What is clear is when the name became official. That was August 1, 1922 when the post office opened. The post office continued until it was officially closed on June 15, 1940. Although the last shift at the mine already finished on April 8, it was the day after that the last sigh of a once proud mine was heard. On April 9 the steam power plant was turned off and the company whistle sounded for a very long time until all the steam was gone. That was really the end. ~ Ole Juul

Bert Rice Mini Excavator 250-295-6218 ~ Custom work available on short notice.
The Tin Man Metal Roofing 250-295-3743 ~ Metal roofing sales and installation.

Back To Work

Coalmont Energy employees and sub-contractors are celebrating tonight.

Since the beginning of September there has been a temporary operational curtailment at the coal mine which was expected to last between seven and ten days. The delay has dragged on two weeks longer than that, and this has been a stressful time for many. Today the mining inspector gave the verbal OK for operations to resume. A written document will follow.

Getting the inspector’s approval means that the plant can restart and the workers in the pit can get back to work too. Operations will likely be back on track sometime during this week. §

24/7 ER Back October 11

Starting October 11 the Princeton General Hospital will be providing 24/7 emergency services again. It’s been 16 months since that was last available. For those looking for a doctor to visit, Princeton will also have three new physicians.

“It has been a long and sometimes difficult process,” says Brad Hope, Area H Director for Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen. “But it demonstrates very clearly just how much can be accomplished when we all work together. My profound thanks to this amazing community, to our healthcare professionals, to Interior Health and to the Province for making this happen.”

The latest physician survey indicates that there are between 4600 and 5900 patients in the area. Considering that Princeton itself has a population of under 2700, it looks like half the people serviced are from communities outside the Princeton area, such as Coalmont. Since the total population of Area ‘H’ is only about 2200, it is possible that some patients are coming from even further away.

Coalmont is lucky in that the hospital is only about 20 minutes away. Other communities have a travel time of more than twice that. Of course, if an ambulance needs to come out, then all trip times are double. In any case, it is a relief to know that the Princeton Hospital Emergency Department will be open, no matter what time you get there. §